At Marist Seminary where I live and work, we have a Sri Lankan Cook. You can imagine some of our conversations of recent weeks since the bombings in Colombo. She is very sad about what is happening in her homeland and sad for her Mum who is in her 80’s living in the city.
I was deeply moved and saddened to hear that the Cardinal in Sri Lanka had encouraged the people to stay home from attending Mass last Sunday for fear of further bloodshed and to watch Mass on TV in their own home. I was sad for the people not able to be free to move and worship as normal and moved by their faith and love for the Eucharist. You may have seen hundreds of them on the news gathered outside the shrine of St Anthony’s where most people were killed praying and singing together last Sunday. The faith and courage displayed is inspirational because they will be afraid and traumatized.
We know that our Christian brothers and sisters, as well as Muslim and Jewish people have all been affected by violence recently while attending worship. Not easy days for religious people. Such targeting is atrocious. Out of such senseless violence we also see the determination of the people to stand up and not allow the violence to define them.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32, 40-41 for this Sunday’s liturgy we hear about the opposition and humiliation the Apostles experienced in preaching about Jesus. Led by the Spirit they were compelled to do so and would not allow such opposition to prevent them preaching about him and his gift of new life. Given their new found courage and zeal, they were prepared to face the consequences.
All these people throughout the world suffering and hurting for the sake of their faith are witnessing to the higher values of our human existence and not the base ones of people determined to destroy and divide.
The words of the Psalms can be powerful for people enduring such suffering. We read this morning in Psalm 29,
‘I will praise you Lord you have rescued me and have not let my enemies rejoice over me’.
Our Christian faith so focussed and celebrated in the Easter Season is one of enduring hope and a profound belief that good will prevail over evil. It is why we should never give up on ourselves or other people. Easter reminds us that love will always win through.
Don’t we see it in this beautiful encounter with Christ and Peter on the shore of the lake in today’s Gospel taken from John 21:1-19
Peter has returned to Galilee fishing with the other disciples, trying to get back to some normality after the horrendous events in Jerusalem. He is also having to live with himself and his denial of his best friend. Jesus never gives up on us and he takes Peter aside and says three times ‘Do you love me?’ echoing the three times Peter had denied him. Peter could have walked away with his eyes downcast but no he is much humbler now compared to his pride at the Last Supper and responds, ‘Of course I love you’. Jesus restores him to his rightful place and his leadership role stronger for the experience and on fire with the mission Christ gives him, ‘Feed my sheep’. We too can be stronger and wiser if we face up to those things we regret with humility knowing Christ will never give up on us. We can take up our various roles and tasks, our mission with renewed confidence. We need to remind ourselves every day.
There is always a cost in following Christ and responding to his invitation. Peter and the Apostles faced it, our Christian brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka are facing it and we face it in our own ways. Given our human condition, we can experience false judgements, anger, broken relationships, loss and living with things we find difficult to accept which all challenge this faith of ours.
It may seem we are not getting anywhere fast just like the disciples who caught nothing when they went out fishing. Our Gospel reminds us today that we can’t achieve much on our own. We need the voice and living presence of Jesus on the shore of our hearts encouraging us to keep going and not to give up. Great things can happen and have happened with Christ on our side who invites us to, ‘Come and have breakfast’. What bread and fish is he offering you today to give you nourishment?’ Sit quietly with that.
You may like to listen to 'Blessed Communion' from 'A Noble Work'.